Intricacies in Learning and Using Languages

With respect to learning and using language, there are two types of languages – English/Chinese etc. and Programing language, and there are four scenarios we need to use these languages – casual conversation, presentation/lecturing, writing, and programming.

We tend to jump into the actions of learning and using them in a great effort, but it’s worthy to think through patterns and rules of language so we can grasp this important skill attentively and effectively.

In casual conversation, presentation/lecturing and writing, the requirement of their grammatic correctness increases, while in programming, the grammar, or, to put in the jargon – syntax is strict to the extent of not allowed to mess up an indentation.

Presentation and writing also call forth the coherent organization of ideas and contents, while conversation or off-the-cuff presentation can be permitted with a bit more leniency in terms of structural tightness and neatness.

So what is focally important in almost these circumstances, are the power of content- wording. A great speaker is able to talk with a wide array of vocabulary, phrases, quotations, examples, and veiling language forms to convey her ideas powerfully.

There are three types of words:

similar words
sophisticated words
figurative words

Similar words or synonyms is vital to talk or write in a fluent and colorful way. English is vastly different than Chinese in that there are a great number of words to convey a subtle difference in the meaning while Chinese, as a character-based language, provides fewer combination choices. For example, to express the meaning of great, the assortment of words contains splendid, phenomenal, remarkable, marvelous, incredible, excellentoutstanding,  brilliant, stupendous, superb, grandeur, sublime, eminent, wonderful, marvelous, magnificent, exceptional, extraordinary, top-notch, first-rate…

Sophisticated words are more widely used by academia, managers in corporations, pundits, or anyone who want to distinguish herself from normal English speakers. They use “big” words often. The Canadian psychologist/philosophy professor Jorge Peterson emphasize greatly the importance of articulating, he himself uses a lot of uncommonly used words such as “reprehensible”, “address the topic with trepidation”, “compartmentalization”…

Figurative words are especially powerful and used frequently by experienced writers. Words like “crisp execution” in the book about Jeff Bezos, things went “rampant’, “swings for the fences”, “rubber meets the road” etc. these expressions make the narrative vivid and impressive.

Pontification and summarization of these patterns help me be mindful of learning English. In addition, I realize that the segway lines are also of critical importance. As the linguistic professor Steven Pinker pointed out in one of his lectures, there are veiled wordings such as ask somebody to do sth, a polite line – “if you could close the window, that would be great”- is often preferred than an outright imperative “please close the window” so the speaker won’t convey herself as a dominant figure. Similarly, we intermittently use words like “if you will”, “if I may” to soften up the tone, serving well in high-level conversation or speeches.

Lastly, programming language, however, is rigorous in syntax, which can be harnessed by referencing the template. A logic thinking framework is much more required in programming than in speaking a human language.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.